Violence a relic from people's war to make SA ungovernable - Business Day, 20th August 2012.

Numerous types of chickens are coming home to roost in South Africa. During their long campaign to win power by making the country ungovernable via a no-holds-barred "people’s war", the ruling alliance made up of the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), injected into the bloodstream of the body politic a virus of violence that they cannot now eradicate.

Whether to enforce strikes or bus or school boycotts, protest against "service delivery" failures, back some or other demand on campus, or complain against trains that are late, violence in South Africa has become routine, not unusual. Nonstrikers are murdered (60 of them in the security guards strike in 2006), city centres or university buildings trashed, roads blockaded or railway coaches set alight. People from other parts of Africa who undercut local traders are threatened or even murdered in so-called xenophobic violence.

It is a tragic and bitter irony that all this is happening in a country that is second to none in constitutionally guaranteed and judicially protected democratic rights. The bitterest irony of all is how the virus of violence has corrupted parts of the trade union movement. During apartheid, when union officials were banned or detained without trial, and black unions frequently barred from factories by hostile employers, the emerging black union movement won its legal rights by a struggle that was essentially nonviolent.

Now, with a privileged position, plus organisational and strike rights that are also second to none around the world, unions have become increasingly intolerant, as the Democratic Alliance experienced during its recent march on Cosatu House.

Killing people in the context of inter-union rivalry at Lonmin is also a manifestation of a principle that the ruling alliance introduced during its people’s war, which was to eliminate rival political organisations as far as possible. One of the chickens that is now coming home to roost is that some of the rival factions within the ANC are now using violence — possibly even assassinations — against one another.

Another of the chickens is the poor quality of the police. Their behaviour at Lonmin is but the most lethal manifestation of a wider lack of professional skill, including frequent inability to master the basics of crime scene investigation.

Any intelligent leadership in the police force would have long ago foreseen the risks arising from our violent political culture. Proper training and equipment would long since have been provided to avoid precisely what happened at Lonmin. But, of course, the ANC has ensured that there is no proper leadership at the top of the police force. Instead, the police have become the plaything of rival factions in the ruling party, not to mention the victims of affirmative action and cadre deployment policies.

So South Africa is in a catch-22. The people’s war was part of the strategy of the national democratic revolution to make the country ungovernable. Continued adherence to the strategy of the national democratic revolution in the form of cadre deployment in particular results in a police force that cannot handle the violence that continues as a hangover from the people’s war.

One consequence of the ineptitude of the police is their inability to handle situations such as that at Lonmin without making things infinitely worse. Another is their inability to put a stop to the violence that now characterises so many demonstrations across the country. A third is their inability to secure prosecutions and convictions of violent demonstrators.

Over all of this presides a president out of his depth as CE of the state. His ministers take unto themselves more and more power. Yet, apart from collecting taxes, his government fails increasingly to get the very basics right, top of which is providing law and order under the rule of law. His fondness for singing about his machine gun while the whole nation listens symbolises the very culture of violence that is helping to ruin this country.

- John Kane-Berman

(First published in the Business Day on 20th August 2012.)

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